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blogging for the sciences

I came across a reference to this article in nature on the sciences using blogs and wikis. It points out some o f the strengths of Web 2.0 for the sciences. It also ties the origins of the web as a collaboration space for researchers into the modern technologies that make that real. The web up until now, Web 1.0 as it is now coined, was at its core far more static and siloed. I believe that researchers working in a wiki on a project is really the realization of Tim Berners-Lee’s world wide web. While I can see over-blogging as a distraction. I can also see having a blog on certain project where you document your progress through the experimental stages. It provides a nice chronological record of what you did, when, and why. I think it could capture the excitement better than a finished paper would — and serve as a tool for students, showing them the excitement of the field. As more younger faculty come up the ranks I suspect we’ll see a shift in collaboration tools used.

Innovate Dec/Jan issue is out!

It’s always a good day when the latest Innovate comes out. I immediately jumped to Steven Downes’ “Places To Go” column — not only because he’s talking about moodle, but because his columns have always been interesting. I honestly don’t know when he has time to eat and sleep. Have you looked at his web site? I could spend days there. I’m halfway through “Taking a Journey with Today’s Digital Kids: An Interview with Deneen Frazier Bowen” which is describing her keynote that I’m going to have see online. It illustrates the divide between the typical educator and the “digital natives.” I was able to watch the first 5 minutes of the keynote before the feed cut out. But it looked like a memorable keynote! This issue does seem rather K-12 focused but still of interest to others.

Free blogs for students this time

A few months ago I mentioned edublogs.org and thought it was for students too (it’s just for educators). Well, now there’s learnerblogs.org. According to the announcement it sounds like it is aimed at K12. But uniblogs.org was created to support the college and university segment. Hopefully they will get polished up like edublogs.org. At the moment they are rather rough. James at incsub sure has been busy!

edublogs and course evaluations

Thanks to Sean who pointed out that edublogs is meant for educators rather than students. I had better read those FAQs!

I also wanted to link to my annotated bibliography version of the articles in my previous post. The annotations will give you an idea of what was studied in some of the articles.

Blogging has taken a real hit with fall semester looming. I will return!

Blog lag

My blogging sure has taken a hit as of late. Things have been busy at work (migration from Blackboard 5.5 to moodle 1.5 — and all of the customizations to moodle, course evaluations online — both a new set of questions and doing it online) and at home (our 2nd story is about to be removed and rebuilt anew).

The online course evaluations have been very interesting. It’s a real intersection of students, faculty and technology. You have the factors of student attitudes to course evaluations — are they anonymous? do the faculty care? does my opinion matter? And then the faculty attitudes towards evaluations — what if only students with negative opinions do them? non-tenured faculty worry about tenure decisions. And then the technology factor of being online adds the new variable of response rate. Doing paper evals during class gives a captive audience — the evals are optional, the faculty member has to leave the room, but the time allotted varies. The handwriting issue also comes into play for anonymity. Doing them online makes it easier to not do them. There hasn’t been extensive research on doing course evaluations online, but there are some articles I’ve found.

First of all, some effective practices are emerging. The TLT Group’s Flashlight Program BeTA Project has some insights to successful online evaluations. What is interesting is that several of the articles I found on the subject echo similar findings. Generally, institutions awkwardly start doing online evaluations. Sometimes things go bad, they try a few things to improve response rates, and then find things that work. These practices match quite closely the BeTA findings above.

What I find interesting is that the institutional culture around evaluations seems to influence their success when taken online. I’ve learned from smarter people than I that the social aspect can overwhelm a technology project. This is why Dr. Pike used Bolman and Terrence’s 4 frames (structural, political, human resource, cultural) when approaching the course evaluation redesign last summer (see our paper for more).

Back to some resources if you’re looking to move your institution to online course evaluations. I’ve tried to link to them all and note the institutions. Some focus on response rates, some are more general. Some have bibliographies that can lead you down more paths.

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